On the day after Darius Rucker’s third solo effort, True Believers, hits the market, the former Hootie & the Blowfish frontman is enjoying the Los Angeles sun and a brief reprieve (if you can call a series of media appearances a reprieve) from his first solo headlining tour.
“It’s cool not to be the new guy anymore,” he says with a smile, seated in the lobby of Hollywood’s Andaz hotel.
While his first two country efforts (2008’s Learn to Live and 2010’s Charleston, SC 1966) both debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart (and each cracked the top five on the Billboard 200 albums chart), it’s his latest success that had Rucker feeling as though he’s arrived in Nashville, so to speak.
On Wednesday, Billboard revealed that True Believers had debuted at No. 1 on the country chart, selling 83,000 copies in its first week and overperforming from initial projections. The album bows at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart behind Daft Punk’s highly anticipated Random Access Memories.
Asked about what a third straight No. 1 album would mean to him, Rucker says, “It would mean that I’m doing the right thing.”
“The first record, that’s a record where it’s like, ‘Great, you did it. Let’s see you do it again.’ The second record, you’re just trying to pick up where you left off. But this record is really about trying to solidify my place in Nashville,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I’ve said to country music, I’m here until they don’t want to play my records anymore. … I just want to keep making country records until one day I go to a radio station and a guy goes, ‘We don’t want to play that.’ I’ll go, ‘OK, I’ll retire now.’ ”
Rucker shows no signs of slowing down just yet. Critics praise the singer’s “remarkable voice,” with NPR commenting that “it can be tough for artists to find an audience when they change genres, but Rucker does it seamlessly by returning to the music with which he grew up.” Billboard calls True Believers Rucker’s “richest of his three solo country albums” and declares that his “soulful rasp remains his greatest weapon.”
Rucker himself has acknowledged a positive change in the quality of his vocals this time around, attributing that change to working and recording in his home city of Charleston, S.C., while feeling secure about his place in Nashville. Rucker’s invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry last October provided a welcome confidence boost.
“I think the first two records, I was kind of tentative. I didn’t want to over-sing, I was really holding back,” he says. “But with this record, it’s just like, let’s sing! Even as Frank [Rogers, Rucker’s longtime producer] said, ‘Let’s sing!’
“Also, I love Nashville — it’s just a great city — but when I go to Nashville it’s usually to work. So when I’m there doing vocals, it’s work,” he adds. “But when we went up to Charleston, to do the vocals, it’s like get up, take the kids to school, play some golf, come to the studio, go pick the kids up from school. It didn’t seem like work, it seemed like something I was doing during the day at home and I think that helped me relax a lot.”
Rucker has a few more months before he can settle back in to home life with his wife and children in Charleston, as his True Believers tour continues across the U.S. until its final bow on Sept. 20 in Prior Lake, Minn.
Meanwhile, Hootie & the Blowfish fans could have a mini reunion tour to look forward to next summer, as the band will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of their major-label debut, Cracked Rear View. For more on the status of a Hootie reunion, click here.
For more from Rucker, including why he was initially opposed to headlining his own solo tour, watch the video above.
Email: Sophie.Schillaci@THR.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci